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Army Corps Blows Up Missouri Levee

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“The Mississippi River, already at record levels here, keeps rising, fed by punishing rains. As the flood protection systems that safeguard countless communities groan under the pressure, federal officials executed a fiercely debated plan to destroy a part of the levee holding back the river in the area Mr. Bennett calls home for the greater good of the region.

With a flash of light and a massive rumbling that shook windows miles away, the Army Corps of Engineers set off explosives at 10 p.m. along the first of several sections of the earthen barrier, sending 550,000 cubic feet of water a second across the 130,000 acres of farmland known as the spillway. There were 90 homes in the spillway, but under the cover of darkness it was impossible to gauge the initial devastation. “This doesn’t end this historic flood,” said Maj. Gen. Michael J. Walsh, who commands the Mississippi Valley Division of the corps, explaining that the river may rise again in a few days. “This is not the end, this is just the beginning.”

Col. Vernie L. Reichling Jr., commander of the corps’ Memphis District, said the blast was successful, calling it “historic as well as tragic.”

The move was a desperate effort to lower the river, which had climbed to about 61 feet in nearby Cairo, Ill., to head off calamity up- and downriver. In Illinois, the pressure on the levee created a geyser, forcing the evacuation of Cairo. In Louisiana, there was concern about whether levees could survive a record flood.”

Read more: NY Times